Mordechai Werdyger is an American Hasidic Jewish singer and songwriter popular in the Orthodox Jewishcommunity. As the son of famous Cantor David Werdyger he is known by his stage name Mordechai Ben David (Hebrew: מרדכי בן דוד, lit. Mordechai, son of David) or its acronym MBD. He is known as the “King of Jewish music” and has produced over 30 albums over the past 40 years while performing worldwide. He has headlined the popular charity concerts HASC and Ohel for almost two decades.
Ben David may be considered a pioneer of contemporary Hasidic song. He started his musical career in the early 1970s, a time when Hazzanut was the main source of recorded music in Jewish Orthodox circles, with very few solo singer performers. One notable singer who preceded Werdyger was Shlomo Carlebach, who had started a genre rooted in Hasidic and American folk song in the early 1960s.
Ben David based his career on his father David’s acclaim, choosing Mordechai Ben David (Mordechai the Son of David) as his stage name. In contrast to his father, who recorded classic Hasidic niggunim(songs) with cantorial vocals and classical instruments, Ben David blended traditional Hasidic singing with modern and popular music techniques. He was encouraged in this endeavor by Rabbi Chaim Zanvl Abramowitz, the Ribnitzer Rebbe. He soon became known as an innovator and rose quickly to become a musical superstar to Orthodox Jews worldwide.
Ben David’s music is considered “soul touching” and “spiritually uplifting”, with most of the lyrics based on Hebrew prayer, Biblical passages, and religious poetry, known as Zemirot. Other songs, composed in English, Yiddish, and Modern Hebrew, carry religious themes such as the sanctity of Shabbat and the yearning forMashiach. His recordings include traditional Hasidic melodies of Eastern European folk-style alongside more modern jazz, pop, and rock music.
Throughout his career, Werdyger has worked with many composers and arrangers, most notably Yisroel Lamm and Moshe (Mona) Rosenblum, as well as others including Moshe Laufer and Yossi Green. He himself has composed many songs that he has recorded.
MBD’s style has been an inspiration to many Jewish singers over the past decades; following his genre are famous singers such as Avraham Fried, Lipa Schmeltzerand Yaakov Shwekey.
Music and politics
Some of Werdyger’s songs have carried political messages.
In 1984 and 1985, MBD’s songs “Hold On” and “Let my people Go” focused on the Jewish refusenik plight behind the Soviet Iron Curtain. While “Hold On” expresses hope, “Let My people Go” specifically calls for “support and pressure” to free Natan Sharansky and Ida Nudel from Soviet captivity.
In 1986 MBD’s quasi-rock beat “Jerusalem is not for Sale” spearheaded the Haredi opposition to missionary practice in Jerusalem.
1994’s “Yerushalaim We Will Never Leave You”, recorded in Hebrew and English, protested the intent of dividing Jerusalem under the Oslo I Accord.
MBD released a single track in 1996, named “Chevron Always And Forever” (heb. חברון מאז ולתמיד), protesting proposed Israeli concessions over Hebron under theOslo II Interim Agreement.
In 1999, on a track sung in Hebrew, “Ad Matay” (heb.עד מתי), written by Chaim Walder, Werdyger took on tensions between Israeli secular and religious parties. This dramatic composition expressed a heart-wrenching cry against internal hatred and takes an indirect shot at anti-religious politicians Yossi Sarid (Meretz) andTommy Lapid (Shinui) by rhyming their surnames into a phrase depicting “the flame of hatred which leaves no remnants”.
In 2010, MBD re-wrote his famous English song “Unity”, expressing protest of alleged Federal injustice to Sholom Rubashkin in his widely publicized case in the U.S. The song, renamed “Unity For Justice”, was performed by MBD together with Avraham Fried and forty famous Jewish singers. An HD Video recording was publicized on a petition website as well as the social network.
His father, David Werdyger, was a hazzan (cantor) and Holocaust survivor originally from Kraków. His brother, Mendy, is also a Jewish singer and owner of the Jewish record label Aderet Records and its retail store in Boro Park, Brooklyn, Mostly Music. His son, Yeedle, and nephew, Yisroel Werdyger (Mendy’s son), are also popular Jewish singers.
His wife, Esther, is also the daughter and sister of hazzanim.
Werdyger continues to work on recordings in his private studio in Sea Gate, Brooklyn and cooperates with contemporary music producer Eli Lishinsky.
His most recent album, Kissufim, was released in October 2011. This production was said to be his last album, with MBD stating that illegal CD burning and internet downloads were ruining the industry and making albums financially unprofitable.
After great success with Kissufim, in February 2012, MBD announced on Menachem Toker Radio Israel that he had just started on a new album, although he did not release information about the type of album.
He has also unofficially released a non-public single titled “Omdos Hoyu” in honor of a Yeshiva Student’s marriage in Israel, and although it was only released at the event in Israel, it has become widely popular through being posted on the web.
Another single released was “Yachad Shivtei Yisrael”, composed in honor of the 2012 Siyum HaShas.
Werdyger does not sing at mixed concerts for religious reasons.
Werdyger lives in Sea Gate, Brooklyn, and has mentioned that he has purchased a house in Jerusalem and intends to move there shortly.
A few of MBD’s songs are adaptations of well-known, non-Jewish songs.
- “Hinei Lo Yanum” on Hineni (1975) is an adaptation of “Mamy Blue”, originally composed by veteran French songwriter Hubert Giraud in 1970. In May 1971, Alain Milhaud, a French record producer based in Spain, acquired the song for Pop-Tops.
- “Lichtiger Shabbos” on Just One Shabbos (1982) [retitled “Yiddish” on Solid MBD (1993)] is an adaptation of “Close Every Door To Me”, from the musical theater production Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
- “Kumt Aheim” on Jerusalem: Not For Sale (1986), commonly referred to as “Yidden” and retitled as such for the CD release, uses the music of “Dschinghis Khan” (English: Genghis Khan), from the German band Dschinghis Khan.
- “Father Dear” on Yerushalayim Our Home (1988) [retitled “Daddy Dear” on The English Collection (1998)] uses music from “Little Child”, performed by many earlier singers, notably Cab Calloway and his daughter in 1956; it, in turn, is adapted from an earlier French song.
- “Shir Hashalom” is an adaptation from Bobby Vinton’s “My Melody of Love”.
In addition, “Vechol Maminim”, from MBD’s album of the same name, was an adaptation of “Tov Lehodos”, an earlier song by Shlomo Carlebach.
- Mordechai Ben David Werdyger Sings Original Chassidic Nigunim (1973)
- Hineni (1974)
- Neshama Soul (1975)
- I’d Rather Pray and Sing (1977)
- Vechol Maminim – Songs of Rosh Hashana (1979)
- Moshiach is Coming Soon (1980)
- Memories (1981)
- Mordechai Ben David Live (1981)
- Ich Hob Gevart (I Have Waited) (1982)
- Just One Shabbos (1983)
- Around the Year Vol. 1 (1984)
- Hold On (1984)
- Let My People Go (1985)
- Jerusalem Not For Sale (1986)
- MBD and Friends (1987)
- Jerusalem Our Home – Lekovod Yom Tov (1988)
- Siman Tov and Keitzad (Singles) (1989)
- The Double Album (1990)
- Solid MBD (1990)
- Moshiach, Moshiach, Moshiach (1992)
- Live in Jerusalem (1989)
- Tomid BeSimcha – Always Happy (1994)
- Special Moments (1994)
- Once Upon a Niggun (1996)
- Chevron Forever (single)(1996)
- Ein Od Milvado (1997)
- The English Collection (1998)
- We Are One (1999)
- Maaminim (2001)
- Kumzits (2003)
- Nachamu Ami (2004)
- Oorah [single] (2005)
- Efshar Letaken (2006)
- Yiddish Collection (2007)
- Anovim Anovim [single] (2008)
- Oorah [single] (2008)
- Levado – Mishpacha [single] (2008)
- Kulam Ahuvim (2009)
- Platinum Collection (2009)
- Kisufim (2011)
- Omdos Hoyu [single] (2012)
- Yachad Shivtei Yisrael [single] (2012)
- Afofuni [single] (2013)
In addition, MBD appears on many albums including:
- Jewish Education Program Vol. 4 (1979)
- Jerusalem (1983)
- Father & Sons Biglal Avos (1984)
- Torah (1985)
- Simcha (1986)
- Hallel (1987)
- 25 Years Of Jewish Music (1988)
- Yeedle – Together (1993)
- 3 Generations (1994)
- Yeedle – Laasos Retzon Avicha (1995)
- Best Of The Best 1 (1997)
- Solid Gold Volume 1 (1997)
- Solid Gold Volume 2 (1998)
- Lev Vanefesh II (1998)
- Mona 3 (1998)
- Solid Gold Volume 3 (1999)
- Hamishorririm (1999)
- Ken Burgess – I’ll Never Walk Alone In The Desert (2000)
- All Star Collection (2000)
- The Vocal Version (2001)
- Best Of The Best 2 (2002)
- Yeedle – IV (2002)
- Mona 4 (2003)
- Sheves Achim Shabbos In Mezibuz (2004)
- Ken Burgess – Melech (2005)
- Brand New (2005)
- Shabbos With The Werdygers 1 (2006)
- Yeedle – Lev Echad (2008)
- Hameorerim (2008)
- The 8th Note (2008)
- Shabbos With The Werdygers 2 (2010)
- Lipa Schmeltzer – Meimka Dlipa: From the Depth of My Heart (2010)
- Miami Boys Choir – Light Up the Nights & Greatest Dance Hits (2010)
- Big Time – Alter Heim – Then & Now (2011)
- Yeedle – A Verdige Yid (2013)
- Shir (2014)